5 Tips for the Student to Excel at Martial Arts

1.      Commit 100%

Go big or go home, all or nothing, give it your all, etc... all skills including martial arts require commitment. All great athletes or artist may have been blessed with natural talent, but to be the best, Kung Fu Shaolin Monks practice well over three to four hours a day! As mentioned earlier eat, sleep, and breathe your skill, this means watching martial arts movies, YouTube Video’s, reading martial arts books, magazines, or articles. Practicing can be done at all times!
one must commit to their skill or art. One must be willing to be a sponge and learn as much as possible. One must eat, sleep, and breathe the skill. One must practice, practice, practice!  Practice must not only be done in class, three to four hours a week is not sufficient to be outstanding at your skill.

2.      Learn your skill

When practicing martial arts try not to just go through the motions, or movements, try to visualize what each attack is doing, whether it be conditioning, blocking, striking, or a nice self defense technique. When practicing Tao Lu/Kata/Forms, practice to the best of one’s ability. 1st emphasis should be placed on correct stances and posture, 2nd correct execution of blocks attacks and techniques, 3rd power, lastly would be speed. I am afraid to even mention speed though, due to the fact that this is what most focus on first. Focus on learning the skill and everything about it, one must try to “master” a beginning skill before learning a new one. One must learn to crawl before one can run.

3.      Correct your skill

You may be practicing a technique a wrong way, this is common. Do not be discouraged your instructor should be more than pleased that you are at least practicing. Learn the corrections though; do not stay stuck in your old habits. If you think your way is better, right or wrong, your instructor will want you to do it their way. Corrections must be done at all times, keep in mind there is no right or wrong way, overall the “correct way” is what works best for you. Your instructor should have a set curriculum he/she wants you to learn, you must master this before mastering your way.

4.      Retain your skill

Many have witnessed martial arts tests, during these tests black belts have only had to do a required amount of “kata”, board breaking, and “kumite”. Not all of the information learned since white belt is needed to perform during a black belt exam at all schools. However at HWMA the curriculum is accumulative to advance to the next rank, this means all beginning stances, forms, techniques, such as something as simple as fighting position must be performed during a belt rank examination. Martial arts schools that have accumulative requirements for testing are usually great examples of prominent martial arts schools. There are other martial arts schools that do not have accumulative requirements, but still produce phenomenal martial artist.
As mentioned earlier one must crawl before he/she can run, this means one must execute a correct single punch, before one executes a double punch. Do not forget “old”/”easy” techniques this will not help for future reference especially if one would like to be an instructor themselves.

5.      Do not give up

Most importantly never quit your training. Once in a while one may get discouraged, this is just one of the many obstacles one will face during their training. Everyone plateaus and it is up to the person to rise above it. Try not to have too many rest days, try to do something productive for your skill at all times. There will be obstacles such as new techniques that will be harder to learn than others, this does not mean to give up, this means to try harder. Show your best at your worst, when you are hurt or tired, this does not mean to go without the previous steps. Your competition may beat you up and down, this does not mean to give up, but to show them you’re determined to survive, to win and overcome.

How bad do you want it? All of these tips can be done with ease it is up to the student to execute them!

HWMA Tournament Results for August 30th, 2014

On August 30th, Chloe Gutierrez and Bradley Odoms attended Armando Saldana’s Kajukenbo Cancer tournament in Mercedes, Texas. The day started off with specialty division in which Chloe competed in, she did very considering it was her first time using a weapon with music. Next was 6 and 7 year old beginner boys and girls, Chloe tied twice, and walked away with a second place. Next was Bradley Odoms who walked away with a second place in his division as well. After forms was Chloe’s division in sparring in which she did very well to blow away the competition and win in the first place fight by a five point spread! Bradley did very well in his sparring division and received a third place not bad considering his division was one of the biggest of the tournament.

I Sifu Oscar am very proud of my students, Honorable Warrior Martial Arts does not practice for these tournaments, the main tournaments HWMA practices for are the Kung Fu tournaments. Kung Fu tournaments are more realistic. Overall I am very proud of my students as always because they tried their best.

Overall Tally 

Sifu Kenneth Edwards visits HWMA

Honorable Warrior Martial Arts had planned to attend a tournament in Dallas Texas in late July, but many parents as well as Sifu Oscar had thought there would be a better way to bring a great Kung Fu experience to the children. Through hard work, fundraising, and very generous donations, HWMA was honored with Sifu Kenneth Edwards teachings. Sifu Kenneth Edwards is not just a Sifu of wa lum kung fu, but of Eagle Claw Kung Fu as well. Sifu Edwards has mastered the entire Shum Leung Ying Jow Pai as well as Wu style curriculum. Sifu Oscar has always wanted to become a true eagle claw instructor due to his early teachings of eagle claw as a child. Many other martial arts instructors claim to know eagle claw or teach it, but Shum Leung’s lineage is unsurpassed. Sifu Edwards has also appeared in big Hollywood motion pictures such as Mortal Kombat, in addition Sifu Edwards is also an author of martial arts books. 

Sifu Oscar Olivarez has looked up to Sifu Edwards for quite some time and was honored with Sifu Edwards presence. Sifu Edwards was able to instruct not only Sifu Oscar Olivarez, but the students of Honorable Warrior Martial Arts as well. Sifu Edwards taught some amazing self defense techniques as well as bully prevention tactics with his high energy and comical way of instructing. Overall it was a great experience for everyone, the Valley Morning Star even did an article on Sifu Edwards and Honorable Warrior Martial Arts. Sifu Oscar Olivarez would like to thank Valley Morning Star for a great article in the paper, Elite Cheer Force for using their facility, the parents for believing in Sifu Oscar, and the students for being on their best behavior, and making Sifu Oscar proud as always. Sifu Oscar is now learning the Shum Leung lineage, Honorable Warrior Martial Arts is now the only school that teaches legitimate Eagle Claw Kung Fu as well as Shaolin, and Wushu. Thank you once again for everyone and everything they have done to make HWMA one of the greatest schools in the Rio Grande Valley.

HWMA Tournament Results for May 3, 2014

May 3, 2014 Joey Serna and Chloe Gutierrez of Honorable Warrior Martial Arts displayed great performances in their perspective divisions. First event of “Lightning” Sorrels tournament was 5 and under specialty division, Chloe Gutierrez competed in this division for her first time performing Shaolin Kwan Staff and received a 3rd place. Next Chloe competed in the 5 and under hand form division Chloe tied for 2nd having to perform her Tao Lu or form again. After performing Pou Chuan, or Cannon Fist for the judges, she ended up tying again, this time the judges had to point to who they thought the winner was, Chloe was not chosen for 2nd receiving a 3rd, never the less still proud of her. Joey Serna was up next to represent Honorable Warrior Martial Arts, in just two or three months Joey had received a his first sash at HWMA and has also competed at his first tournament. Joey received a 2nd place in 12 and 13 beginner hand forms, not bad for his first time competing at a martial arts tournament. Chloe was up next again this time for sparring, she fought bravely and defeated her first opponent, but her second match went to sudden death and the other opponent won, still very proud of her. The competition day ended with Joey Serna fighting for his first time at a tournament, he had the lead at the beginning of the match, but fell short by one point at the end of the fight awarding him 3rd place.

I Sifu Oscar, am very proud of these two warriors, they had enough courage to attend this tournament, and at least step in front of lots of people and show their hard work to judges. Thank you to the parents that support their children in their martial arts journey. Thank you to the students that proudly represented HWMA at this tournament. Thank you God for blessing me with hard working, smart, good hearted students. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about trying your best!!

P.S. Next tournament is July 18-20, 2014 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Area Grapevine, Texas. HWMA has not attended this tournament since its opening, this will be the first time. This tournament is in it’s 104 year anniversary. This tournament should run pretty smooth, due to the experience. I myself have competed at this tournament when I was a kid through the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw team. This is a big one, a competitor is considered a world champion if he/she wins at this tournament. It would be great if HWMA would make a big showing at this tournament for the first time. It is also one of the very few Kung Fu tournaments HWMA attends. Please try to make plans for this tournament.

Why Tournaments Should Be Attended

There is starting to be a lack of interest in martial arts tournaments especially in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Many reasons why parents do not put their children in competitions or why elder students themselves do not wish to compete may sound valid to themselves and a few others, but not to me. As an Instructor with over 15 year’s experience, as well as a past competitor and champion. I will do my best to disregard these excuses as well as show many other motives as to why you should place your child in competitions, or you yourself should compete.

The first explanation I hear a lot is that competitions cost money, and due to the fact that we are living in a hard time this may sound valid. Many competitions that HWMA likes to attend are the actual Kung Fu tournaments which are usually pretty distant from the Rio Grande Valley. Many Kung Fu tournaments take place in Houston or Dallas, some even further as far as Florida. Of course the distant tournaments will cost more money due to travelling expenses as well as lodging expenses. HWMA does attend the Karate/Tae Kwon Do style tournaments as well, which are local. This already cuts out the lodging expenses, but the travelling expenses still survive due to gas prices. A way you can cut costs for a local or distant tournament is car pulling with another family that is attending the tournament or observers who will be attending the tournament as well. Food is another expense that may arise when traveling to a competition whether it be local or distant, it is always good to prepare easy to make food such as sandwiches or tacos, and bring them with you to the tournament.

Many other expenses arise, and many can be either eliminated or cut in half, but one that a competitor may not be able to extinguish is the competition fee. One way of cutting costs for entering a tournament is to compete in only a few divisions. Some tournaments charge a lot of money per division, but some only charge as much as $5. If the student is competing at a tournament that charges much more for each additional event the student can focus on maybe just one event and try to master it. The competitor may also obtain sponsorships, donations, or fund raise. All in which HWMA will help the optimistic competitor obtain.  Money for competition should not be an issue if planned strategically.

Another defense many competitors use is “I’m scared”, I am scared I will get hurt, or hurt others.” At every martial arts tournament there are divisions, these divisions are arranged according to age and experience, some tournaments even arrange by height and weight. This should alleviate some fear of fighting another opponent. In a realistic situation this advantage you get with attending a tournament does not occur. You do not get to dwindle down your attacker to age and experience. You or your child’s attacker may be in another martial art, or have a huge age difference or experience. Attending a friendly competition will release some shock to you or your child if (god forbid) you get in a bad situation. The competition will expose you or your child to other forms of martial arts and will therefore know a little more on how the attacker may fight. One may say that they are scared to get hurt or they are scared their child may get hurt. This may have been the case 35-40 years ago, but there has been an improvement in martial arts tournaments which require certain equipment that protects the competitor from injury such as a head gear, gloves, feet gear, etc.. I myself have seen injuries occur, but martial arts is a contact sport, injuries are bound to occur, they can be prevented if the competitor wears all the necessary equipment, and protects themselves at all times. There are actually more injuries in cheerleading than there are in martial arts, same with baseball, and football. There are also rules and officials that help eliminate the possibility for injury. Another way of preventing you or your child from getting hurt is not to enter the sparring division, tournaments hold a lot of other division such as forms, weapon forms, specialty division, group forms, and the list goes on. The competitor may be able to experience the joy of competition without having to fight another competitor. A competitor may fear the inescapable inevitable of LOSING. The competitor should realize that once he/she has agreed to compete, they have already won! They have done what others do not have the courage or excuses to do. Winning and losing is a part of life. Some will win and land the job interview others will lose, some will win a law suit others will lose. Competing at tournaments helps cope with this. When a competitor loses at something in the real world, the competitor will be better able to cope with this situation due to the fact that they have been exposed to it already. The competitor will also know what he/she should do to land the job next time, or know what mistakes the individual made. The competitor knows what hard is and what it takes to win and the individual knows that he or she should try harder next time and never give up.

At tournaments there are politics involved and some judges are not fair. For example if a competitors instructor is judging in their particular division and the instructor does not contain the values that he/she should have obtained when learning a martial art such as Honor and fairness, then of course the Instructor’s student will have the upper hand and that student may win due to the fact that the competitor’s instructor gave them a higher score to win the division. Also if an instructor holds and annual tournament and an instructor notices that one school always brings many competitors from one school then one judge may get on the instructor’s good aside and try to form an alliance, to bring that school to his/her competition.  This is not fair to the competitor who has most likely trained very hard and lost due to politics, this sad incident does occur, but all in all that is not what the competition should be about. Same happens in real life situations, if one person is hoping to land a promotion, but another worker is wishing to get the position as well and one of them is friends with one who makes the final decision, then of course there is politics involved there as well. Hopefully none of HWMA students will be in that situation, but if they are then, they will most likely know what to do in a situation such as that.

Many excuses can been disclaimed, but let’s add  fuel to the fire and discuss why it is good to join in competition. Reason #1 Fight your Fears! One of the benefits of martial arts training is the ability to stay calm in stressful or dangerous situations. So how can a tournament help you to stay calm instead of panicking? Just ask anyone who has competed. When you step into the ring your adrenaline starts to flow. Your pulse quickens, you feel butterflies in your stomach, and your legs will feel heavy. This is a result of the “fight or flight” response, and in a tournament you will literally be conditioning your body and mind on how to handle these stresses. With more competition experience, you’ll become stronger and more confident. Tournaments force you out of your comfort zone, and while that doesn’t always sound pleasant, it is necessary for true growth. Reason #2 Test Your Might! One spends hours in class and at home developing and perfecting their skills, drilling your forms, learning effective sparring strategies, working on your strength and flexibility….put that training to the test! Tournaments offer a safe and positive environment for you to showcase your abilities and learn about what you need to improve. You will get feedback from the judges, as well as other competitors, on what you did well and what you should work on. Reason #3 Experience! When you train at HWMA you many spar the same people continuously. You eventually get used to the way they spar, and can start to anticipate them. Going to tournaments allows you to compete against new people that can challenge you. Different martial artist will compete and showcase their skills. Remember that even inside of a single martial arts organization, each school will have its own unique style and personality, due to differences in the master instructors. So another benefit is that you may learn or see something you wouldn’t have seen just by attending your classes. Reason #4 Motivation! Like everything else in life, our level of motivation never stays constant. We see this the most in children who are still learning about self-discipline, one day they are extremely motivated future black belts, the next day they want to quit altogether. Competition can help keep students motivated by providing them with “mini goals” throughout their training. Once you commit to competing in a tournament, you start to train harder. And then when they do compete, they feel a tremendous amount of pride in what they have accomplished. Reason #5 Camaraderie!  Tournaments offer a many bonding experiences for students. As they train together for a common goal, and then compete with and cheer for each other, they will become closer. They will also have the chance to meet with and create friendships with students from other schools. Nothing brings people together like a shared experience.

In the end, the benefits of competing in tournaments are much greater than any reason you could have not to. I have tried my best to disclaim any reasons for not competing and tried to add reasons to compete as well. It’s about more than just competing and winning trophies and medals, it’s about taking your martial arts journey to the next level. If you do have any reservations or concerns about competing, I will do my best to accommodate and educate any question or concerns you may have. I know that once you experience all that tournaments have to offer, you’ll be hooked and looking forward to the next one!

Fiesta de La Feria 2014

On February 22, 2014 students of Honorable Warrior Martial Arts in Harlingen put on a tremendous Kung Fu display of power, speed, flexibility, and grace at the 2014 Fiesta de La Feria. Students who attended this event were Jr. Assistant Brandon Odoms, Bradley Odoms, Sophia Castillo, Mia Castillo, Joseph Colon, Isaiah Colon, Brianna Colon, and Chloe Gutierrez. All of them put on a tremendous demonstration and shocked the crowd.

Honorable Warrior Martial Arts in Harlingen would like to thank the city of La Feria, and the committee responsible for putting on such a great event. The event was not only great due to the amazing performance of Honorable Warrior Martial Arts, but of all the other events going on at the Fiesta as well. Amazing music was being played, delicious food was being served, and fun games as well as arts and crafts were provided for the children.

I Sifu Oscar would personally like to thank three individual students that made the event run smoothly, the individuals are Jr. Assistant Brandon Odoms, Joseph Colon, and Sophia Castillo. As I was making announcements, these students were helping with the lineup and telling other students who was next, and who should get ready to perform. Honorable Warrior Martial Arts had to put on two forty five minute demonstrations. This is not easy to do, with the help of these students the demonstration was a success. 

Once again thank you to those individuals, thank you to the city of La Feria, thank you to the parents who are doing a great job in raising Honorable Warriors, and thank you to DTROCK DJ service who provided the sound equipment and the microphone. The event would not have been a success without everyone who helped and participated. I am very blessed to have such great people in my life, thank you once again. 

Thank you, Sifu Oscar

Animal Kung Fu Styles Not Just for Hollywood

More than once I have heard, “Animal styles are just for Hollywood.”  As a long time practitioner of many animal styles as well as other Kung Fu styles, I could not disagree more. Many great generals used animal styles as the armies leading self defense tactics. Emperors used body guards who only knew a certain animal style to protect them from invading armies, terrorists, thieves, and assassins. Having practiced animal styles first hand I too have reason to believe animal style techniques are useful in certain situations.

General Yue Fei who was a very prominent general of the Song Dynasty learned martial arts from a Shaolin Monk named Zhou Tong. General Yue Fei eventually created Eagle Claw Kung Fu and taught his system to help combat the invasion against the Jin dynasty, which proved to be highly successful. Later General Yue Fei’s traditional Eagle Claw was combined with Fan Zhi Quan which involves high speed punches and jumps. After the formation of modern Wushu, the General Yue Fei’s traditional eagle claw with the added Fan Zhi Quan added more aerobics and gymnastic type moves. This form of eagle claw would be what one would see on TV. Not that of General Yue Fei’s traditional eagle claw which proved to be highly effective in combat.

During the late nineteenth century, the Hung Gar system was being perfected by many Hung Gar practitioners. Many of them would easily beat other challenging martial art styles. Emperors during the late nineteenth century became aware of this and the first true bodyguards emerged. Therefore, now many bodyguards are known to be big and strong due to the training of the Hung Gar Kung Fu system. Hung Gar is a mixture of white crane and tiger system with emphasis on low stances to build strong legs, and resistance muscle training by flexing muscles using tight fists not weights. This proved to be very effective due to the fact many of the Emperors bodyguards trained in the Hung Gar system were known to knock out an opponent with a single attack.

I am a long time practitioner of Nan Quan, which is a high emphasis of the Hung Gar Kung Fu system mentioned earlier, and also a practitioner of traditional Eagle claw Kung Fu. I too have noticed some advantages in these animal systems. When grappling against modern day Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners or any other wrestling system, I have noticed the pressure points taught in Eagle Claw Kung Fu give me a good advantage over other more advanced practitioners of ground fighters. Many practitioners react to the Eagle Claw techniques as not being legal, or that it is not Jiu Jitsu. I reply and say, “Your right. It is not Jiu Jitsu I never claim to know Jiu Jitsu, I know Eagle Claw Kung Fu and apply the pressure points even on the ground and it proves to be very effective.” The Nan Quan Kung Fu I study is also, of some effect, to other challenging martial artists I have encountered. The different angles and low attacks displayed in Nan Quan have a huge effect on martial artists who attack high (towards head or face). Due to the low attacks of Nan Quan, one is able to knock down an opponent who attacks high easily, also, due to the power of the hits the attacker is not likely to rise.

As one can see, animal styles were not originally meant for Hollywood, but movies have changed certain views of the Kung Fu system. Especially with all of the “wire fu” action that is seen in many films such as crouching tiger hidden dragon etc… these movies have made the animal style or even kung fu styles appear to be fake or ineffective in combat. This is most definitely not true, due to the facts stated above. Which are the use of Eagle Claw Kung Fu in Chinese armies, Hung Gar (White Crane/Tiger) Kung Fu as the Emperors body guards leading combat techniques, as well as my own knowledge that I have obtained from practicing many animal martial arts styles. I hope everyone has the opportunity to at least try animal styles and realize their strengths and the enjoyment of practicing their styles. 

Kung Fu Tournament Results - ICMAC 2014

Members of HWMA kung fu traveled 350 miles to Houston, Texas to capture not only earned gifts of gold, silver, and bronze, but to gain knowledge and experience as well. The small five member team from Harlingen went home with an astonishing SEVENTEEN medals and seven southern regional championship titles part of the International Chinese Martial Arts Circuit, where only the best in Chinese Martial Arts attend. Last year when HWMA attended this tournament there were over 300 competitors at this exact tournament. This year there were definitely more competitors, an estimated 350-400 or more competitors were said to have attended this year.

The kung fu competition started off with the Colon clan, at the end of the day everyone knew the Colons. The judges even said “o yes the Colons are here, they are the ones with attitude”. Isaiah was the first to compete of the day with him sweeping the competition like always taking the gold in traditional boy’s forms 6 and under. His twin dragon Briana who was given the name “spicy Jalapeno” by a Sifu from another prominent martial arts school in the Houston Area, took home gold in traditional hand form 6 and under girls. Next were Bradley Odoms and Joseph Colon both taking bronze in their perspective categories for traditional hand forms. Brandon Odoms displayed an amazing advanced level traditional hand form, but due to the amazing talent displayed in the 14-17 advanced boys division Brandon was a few tenths of a point from taking the bronze. This did not stop Brandon who was the youngest in his division taking the bronze in traditional long weapon as well as in traditional short weapon. Next was Joseph Colon who displayed an amazing traditional short broadsword form taking the silver. The total count for traditional divisions was four bronze, one silver, and two gold.

 Next was the Wushu Division where the twin dragons swept the competition taking the gold in their perspective categories. The older brother of the twin dragons took home the gold in intermediate Wushu boys 7-9 year old division. Brandon Odoms took home one silver medal in advanced Wushu Hand forms, and one gold medal in Wushu Long weapons. The total count for Wushu divisions was four gold, one silver.
The tournament ended with continuous sparring, which was the main reason for traveling 350 miles to compete. Isaiah defeated two opponents in his division taking home the gold for the third time that day. Every event Isaiah competed in he swept the competition. Brianna Colon 6 years old fought 3 hard battles to achieve a silver medal, Brianna was the youngest in 9 and under girls sparring.  Bradley Odoms did very well in his division for sparing taking home the bronze. Joseph fought four hard fights but came down to him taking the silver in his huge division, not bad for him having a fever and strep throat. This only showed that true warriors never give up! Brandon fought two hard battles and came away with a silver medal in sparring as well. The total count for continuous sparring division was one bronze, three silver, and one gold.

All in all this tournament was a learning experience for all the students, as well as, the parents and myself. Many noticed that there were different people in different divisions, many students from different schools train in only one style such as traditional, Wushu, or sparring. At HWMA I train my students to be proficient in all levels of competition and Chinese martial arts. I am very proud of my students who earned another notch in their belt as well as my respect. I am truly honored to be their Sifu, I am very blessed to have such talented and well behaved students.

Total medal count
1st x 7
2nd x 5
3rd x 5

We are the best in Harlingen Kung Fu!